Robert did two years under the article for «sodomy» in the Armenian prison...
Robert is one of those who has felt repressive heritage of the Soviet era. He was condemned for «sodomy» in Armenia and served the sentence in the prison near Yerevan. The 116th article of the Armenian Criminal Code was repealed only in 1999, six years later, than in Russia.

The first «pleshka» (the place they arranged dates and meetings)
The first experience happened to me quite early in my youth with a friend of my older brother. It was long ago during the days of the USSR. After a while I learned from him that «ours» (homosexuals) were meeting in Yerevan at the Opera House. There was a local «pleshka». I was young, beautiful and easy going those days. So gradually my social circle began forming.

When criminal prosecution has already been abolished in Russia, our 116 article of the Criminal Code for «sodomy» operated for a long time. There wasn't a club in the nineties, and we periodically got together with buddies at the apartments, set the table, talked. Those were meetings where it was possible just to be yourself, not to hide and not to keep fillings. Many men came in with their partners. We could watch some Western soft-core movies for male together on a VCR, but companionship was the main thing.
A jealous informer and police income
That happened in 1997. At that time we were betrayed by a man, who was left by his ex-boyfriend. And in a fit of anger he wanted to make troubles for him and his new boyfriend. So he called the police, gave them the address. Police broke to the apartment — we were detained. Of all presented in the apartment only two of us were convicted — my partner Anton and I. Some of participants had useful links, others bought their off (those times it was $ 300), the owner of the apartment left the country secretly to Russia. As far as I know, police often blackmailed extort money from men practiced same-sex relationships. There was no purpose to bring cases to court: the police had the aim to cash in on people the state put «outside the law». I didn't have any money. Moreover I didn't want to bribe in principle.

Our anuses were examined for damage

Before that there was an examination — rather humiliating. In short, our asses were looked. There were two people in the commission: a woman and a man. And there was an armchair, similar to the dentist's chair, but on the contrary: hands and knees thrust there. Like a gynecological chair for women, but conversely. Our anuses were examined for damage. Anton was written as a «passive homosexual», I had no signs of penetration, so they wrote «active».

At the trial my partner Anton was sentenced to only six months. He was exclusively passive and confirmed that «he cannot otherwise, this is his illness, he has always been this way». He asked to let him go. And the judge told that he would punish me to the full extent of the law: «Why are you doing this? You're a man, we know you are able [to have sex] with a woman, but instead of this you use such unhealthy, morally unstable guys».

Totally, according that article of low, we could get up to six years, if there were extenuating circumstances. But I was tried the first time and Anton wrote that we were familiar with the first day and had sex only once. I also said that I was invited to the party and met him there. I didn't deny our contact. Initially, I was sentenced to three years, then the second court reduced it to two.

"My mother was told that I went to Moscow"
Those days I worked as a dancer in the national dance ensemble. I had a relationship with the director, who was elder than I. We were very close friends, although he was a family man. When all this happened, he went to my mother and said that I went working to Moscow, so she couldn't recognize. And he sent money to my mum every month, as if I sent it to her from Russia. I talked to my mother on the phone regularly and she didn't suspect. When I was released from the prison, she was surprised: «Son, why are you so thin? Are there any food troubles in Moscow»?

Emigrants willy-nilly: LGBT-Iranians flee from death penalty abroad

When they later asked me if I had a previous conviction, I answered no. I still think so. What wrong I have done to anyone? I spent two years in prison for the sake of love. Understand? Should everyone who loves be judged? But what for? Why they should be put in prison? This article was canceled nine years ago in our state. People can't be changed anyway, they are as they are. And there is nothing wrong to be yourself, to love. There are many Iranians in Yerevan nowadays. In their country there is a death penalty for same-sex relationships, so they come to us. I understand them.
Zone: «New daughter-in-law has arrived»
After the final verdict I was taken by car to the colony. It was out of town. As the article was not serious and thanks to my first conviction, the conditions of detention were bearable. Being arrived I was met very well: potatoes were fried, I was treated. But then I had heard the conversation: «Oh, a new daughter-in-law has arrived». They had already knew about me. I entered the room. Different clothes for women were hanging there. For me. But someone of those people said: «Take it off, he is a man»... If I was a passive, they would definitely dress me up and arrange a «party». They had something like a theatrical action «Find a husband for yourself». Choose one of them, whose «wife» will you be.
The life of the «offended» in the Soviet prison
In the colony I began to live with the looking for the barracks' «offended» person. It is better to be with the only person than to be with many different once. Of course, I had to forget about a very active role. Had no choice... I was repeatedly called by «muzhiki», but my partner always answered: «He will not go». More than once he was called and beaten for this. At the same time, they respected him for «keeping» his boyfriend, because he didn't let anyone get to me, whereas got punched in the face for my sake. He often had bruises on his face and on his body.

In addition to the separate barrack of the «offended», there lived two more in every ordinary barrack. The «offended», where gays got to, did all kinds of dirty work. They swept, washed the floor, cleaned the toilet bowls. In a week «the watch of the offended» changed, the old ones returned to their barracks.

My «friend» didn't let me go into the other barracks, because he didn't want me to be «touched» by another prisoners. Then claims began about why the person didn't work. I had been sitting not for a month or two, but for two years. So he found a job for me in a meeting room, where wives came to their husbands. I went there in the daytime. I took up the garbage, washed the corridor, the kitchen and others, then came back.

I don't tell lies — during my two years there I had sex not only with the man I lived with. But with all the rest I was strictly in an active role. Just fancy, I'm a southern man, I'm about thirty, sexual tension needs somewhere to go. And I got nothing with my partner, a passive role isn't mine. I tolerated, tolerated, it isn't meant pleasure.

But they treated me normally, I lived all the time in one place, ate normally, no one was rude to me, no one said «Pidaras (fagot), come here!», no one turned me over. I was told «a bride of that one». Therefore, no one touched me there. They knew that I was not alone.

People of the lowest grade
There were few of us in the barracks — only sixteen people. Of course, we ate separately, we had our table, our dishes. We even took a shower at the end, after others had already bathed. But it wasn't accepted to beat us. They think that we are «nasty people», it's even disgraceful to touch us. During sex the man leans his hands on the wall, the second stands behind him. And you haven't to touch the one behind you. It usually happened in the shower room, more often at night. If it was someone important in the prison hierarchy, so you shouldn't tell that you were with him. You can understand: if a person sits 8-10 years, he feels the need for sex, of course. If a person is married, then the wife can come for a long date. That is about two days, if I'm not mistaken, but not often — one time a month or even less often. Although it would be an exaggeration to say that all prisoners were engaged in sex. Of course not. But many.

Humiliation? Well, firstly, it is the very fact that I am a man of the lowest grade. I have to wash toilets and do similar work. With our [national] proud mentality. What else? Like a trifle: even when you need to defecate, there is no partition, and the person opposite you sees everything. And at the same time with the «offended» no one will defecate. Wait until all the others finish, and if you are already sitting, then do everything quickly, free up the space, get out.

Forced to provide sexual services
Among the «offended», of course, not everyone is gay or convicted according a «bad» article. Suppose you are very guilty. The main authority calls the «offended» one and a guilty one, the latter is forced to take his pants off. If someone has just touched his ass, he is already considered the «offended». This is a ritual action for lowering status. It was so at our place, I don't know about other zones. And look, after a while he is going to the «offended» barracks, because everyone knows. And it doesn't matter that there really wasn't sexual intercourse and he is not gay. Many of them begin to offer sexual services afterward.

Generally, if you are «called» and you don't come, it could be fraught with us. I was sitting with two young gay guys, both for theft. They lived together. Several times they got into the face (were punched) for refusal, and then everyone understood that they didn't «walk», and they are stopped calling for. «Let them live their own lives». It was the second half of the nineties. I was serving only once, so I don't know about any changes there.
«We won't provide early release under such an article»
I behaved well. I was sentenced for the first time. I didn't quarrel with anybody. And the chief of the colony had written a good characteristic for me. I was sure that I'll be granted conditional release (parole). There were only women in the commission. The chairperson asked one of them quietly: «What is the article 116 for?». After the woman whispered something in response, the chairperson shook her head only: «Under such an article we won't provide early release». And they turned me down. So, I've served my full time.
In half a year after my release the person I lived in the zone also got out of prison. We had good a relationship until his death. We periodically communicated, then I introduced him to my beloved. My sister and mother don't know that I was incarcerated, but my brother, I think, knows, though he doesn't speak it to me. A few years ago I went to a conscription office. In my personal file remained the mark about the article. I got upset...
The happiest person
You know, I'm the happiest gay of Armenia and Russia. Almost nineteen years I have got a beloved person. Even when we are not together, we call each other every day, we send texts. A. is a member of my family, we are always together while family celebrations. My mother and brother know him well. Once I came without him (A. was on his business trip) and my mother asked: «Why are you without A.? What happened with him?»

I can't live without him any way, he is already inside me, he is already in my blood. And he loves me so strong as I do. We have not been jealous for a long time, because we know we are together forever. We celebrated ten and fifteen years anniversaries in a Moscow gay club. When I was asked what love is, I replied that when you have no food at home, only for one, you will remain hungry, but you will feed your beloved. I will buy clothes for him, even if I personally have nothing to wear.

I don't even think how I could live without him. My brother asked me: «how long are you going to live with him? You are already fifty years old!". I answered him: «All my life. I don't want to get married. I have got children: there is a daughter, there is a son. What else?». My mum understands everything, she doesn't ask any questions.
"I prayed, asked to save the person who is like water and air to me"
The case was a year and a half ago. A. got sick. Weakness, high temperature, he turned yellow, the water gathered in his lungs. We went to the hospital. The doctor examined him and said that there was a large tumor, almost in size of a fist, and it's urgently need to go to Moscow for an operation. The situation was critical. I told him: «I'm going to Moscow. I'll sell my apartment. I need noting without you». I prayed, asked to save the man who was like water to me, like the air, with whom we had been together for more than fifteen years. And then he said that he wanted to make a will. With a high temperature, lying in the bed, he thought about me. I got angry then: «I need nothing, excepting the only thing – I wish you to get well».

In the morning we went to the hospital, tomography was done. It showed that it was not a tumor, but water accumulated in lungs. He had stayed in the hospital for a week and a half. I was there every day, from morning till night, until the hospital was closed for the night. If they allowed me to stay there for the night, I would do it. But the exception was available only for officially registered (married) couples, heterosexuals.

You know, many heterosexual couples envy us. We have spent in a perfect harmony tor twenty years. The only thing grieves me. I keep all our gifts to each other — hearts, toys — in the storeroom. There are a lot of our large photoes. I have printed them, I have chosen beautiful photo frames. I often touch them, look through our family photoes, remember our common life, our celebrations, the way we have changed.. But I can't hang them on walls in the sitting-room. Otherwise I won't be able to invite anybody, excepting my close family members. Armenia after all nowadays is not like Europe…
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